After four decades, it’s hard to create a hip-hop project that doesn’t sound like everything else that has come before it while also maintaining the elements of what has made the music endure and grow for so long.
Sometimes, though, an album finds a new space that hasn’t been plundered yet. A World Only Gods Know, the new project from Scorcese and Alpha Davis, aims to be one those albums.
Scorcese, a member of the ZipSquad collective, is originally from Philly but his rhymes and flow are influenced from all over the map, creating a unique combination of east coast lyricism and a down south vibe with his own twist thrown in. Alpha Davis, meanwhile, is a producer that hails from Dallas, but it’d be hard to know that from this project because nearly every beat sounds as if it were created on the International Space Station.
With such divergent backgrounds, it would be understandable for it to sound unique, but the album truly lives up to its title, taking the listener on a journey through the cosmos, each of the fourteen songs representative of landing on a different planet and literally experiencing a whole new world.
The spaceship has room for more than two and the guest list is impressive, including Killer Mike, Pastor Troy, Sir Michael Rocks of the Cool Kids, Sandman (formerly of the Re-Up Gang), Brian Ennals, and others.
The album is two parallel journeys – one external and one internal – and this soundtrack to the solar system really hits its stride beginning with track four, “4 AM in Dallas,” the first single. Featuring a Lakei Day chorus, it perfectly encapsulates the melding of the two cultures, as the rhymes float effortlessly over the airy beat backed with soft keys and staggering drums.
“Duncan & Ginobili” is flat-out dope as Scorcese and Vodka spit hard over a neck-snapping beat that sounds like they landed on a planet populated by natives banging on drums. The title track shows off Scorcese’s southern-infused skills with a flow like water while “Poetry & Guns” is a short interlude but a perfect song to kick back and vibe to before the regularly scheduled program resumes.
The second half of the album is stellar. “Angels” is a hypnotic trip with ill lyrics that have Scorcese and Brian Ennals examining the duality of being both good and bad (or, in other words, “angels with filthy souls”) while “Untitled” sounds as if it were recorded in a cage in Hell, overflowing with descriptions of the underworld on Earth from all three MC’s – Scorcese (“Demon on my shoulder, promise me the throne/Promise me the kingdom if I sold my soul”), Killer Mike (“The devil got his palm on my arm, I feel warm/He told me that he first met me in the womb of my mom”), and Pastor Troy (“Devil on my shoulder, Jesus in my heart.”) It’s the most cinematic cut on the LP. Those two, along with “Dreamers Theme,” create a mini-arc in the center of the disc.
Alpha’s atmospheric production is top notch and sounds as if it were made up of asteroids, comets, and meteors along with kicks, snares, and loops. Although the beats do drown out the vocals at times, the production is layered, creating different backdrops that still all fit together in one cohesive sound.
Scorcese’s delivery and voice has always been full of emotion and throughout this project his rhymes balance clever rap boasts (“Your love don’t exist like Chris Broussard’s sources”) with deep, introspective soul searching that have him turning himself inside out (“Hate you ’cause you love me”). The final two songs, “Why I Hate My Momma” and “Goodbye Life” evoke the anger and disillusion of so many in a lost generation, like an updated version of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts.”
While it may be A World Only Gods Know, it once again proves that an artist is at his best when he’s showing off his human vulnerabilities. Even in outer space.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.